Welcome friends, my name is John Reitmeier and I've been so fortunate to have experienced a lot of travel starting back in 1972. It's time to put the memories in some sort of order, and to add text and pictures to share with our friends and the many listeners to our radio programs. Thanks for coming along on this ride!
Monday, April 30, 2012
Taking off in any airplane is always a few moments of exhilaration, perhaps a little fear, some joy (usually) at finally being on the journey, and that big, empty, "what's going to happen on this trip!" feeling, that moment of, "there's no turning back now. If you're driving out of the yard, or are even a few miles from home, and forgot something, it's easy to go back, even with a bunch of friends, the ribbing and kidding pales in comparison to getting that most important thing that you forgot. But when that big jet finally makes the long sweep and lines itself up on that 6000 foot cement slab, when it's sitting on the end of the runway, when those engines get the instruction to go to 100% and you're pushed back in your seat, at that moment you know there's no do-overs, there's no, whoops, there's no, "ahhh excuse me but I might have forgotten..."
At the moment this all happened on this flight, it was already dark in New York City. The cabin lights were pretty much turned down and the view out the port hole window of a million lights was setting a scene that up to that time in my life, I really hadn't experienced. Off to Europe with people I hadn't even met the day before, flying over the ocean, known to be icy cold with sharks circling like a world turned upside down and the shark/vultures were waiting, eye to the sky, hoping that we might be their next meal. All this a build up to a never before experienced adrenalin rush such that I had never before experienced. Headphones had been passed out and I was flipping through the different choices of music and all of a sudden there was THE MOMENT. Chariots of Fire (the movie) was 2 years old, just old enough for the theme music to hit all the elevators in the universe, and here it was. Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, we're blasting down the runway, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, Dun Dun, enough fuel to carry three quarters of a million pounds thirty three thousand feet into the air, and keep it there for some four thousand miles. Just at the moment when the nose gear lifted off and the rear wheels break contact with the earth, the big string orchestra kicks in with, Da Da Dat Dat Da Da Dum, Da Da Dat Dat Da Da Dum...and we truly are on the greatest adventure of my life up to that moment! No Hollywood script write could have possible made this all happen, timing to the second, taking into account the weight of the plane and the passengers and the luggage, and wind conditions, and humidity, and the state of the engines, yet it all came together for me right then for the only moment that would be my first moment of flying to Europe, ever.
The next couple of hours were pretty standard, drinks all around, some appetizers, and a pretty good meal. Up to this time I had only experienced the first class cabin on short haul domestic flights, a nice seat and a free drink or two, maybe some snacks, but never the multi-course, heading to France so the wine better be quality, deserts served with a flourish meal that kept TWA in the top rated group of international carriers. Dinner over, the cheese course served and cleaned up after and I notice that my American hating, French seat mate was drifting off into that, too many days in America, glad to be going home, didn't need those extra glasses of wine and all those carbs for dinner mental state, somewhere between awake and asleep, but leaning to comatose. Remember this was still the days of polyester development, we had somehow forgotten that wool and cotton do make some pretty good clothes. He had a mostly full glass of red wine in his right hand with his wrist nestled in that v made by his torso and his thigh and as he was falling asleep, his wine glass was slowly tipping, tipping towards his crotch.
Dilemma time for me. As I was watching this develop I realized that I had three choices. Based on his very verbal and repeating mantra of not liking Americans, of which I was one, I should have just quietly gotten up and make my way to the bathroom and spent enough time for what ever was going to unfold, to happen with no question that I had nothing to do with it, and wasn't in in a position to save the situation. Or I could gently try to wake him up and hope he got control back before that red wine started changing the color of his pants forever, right at crotch central. Or even another choice of reaching over and grabbing the glass from his hand and trying to level out the top so that the though the good graces of gravity, the wine would stay on it's side of the glass. Of course that would involve my having my hand way to close to a mad Frenchman's crotch and a very importune moment, something that now I would just find funny, but that back then, would have been a great embarrassment.
What to do, what to do. As each of the three possibilities were snapping through my mind, not unlike a carousel at a carnival midway, but rather than the next horse coming into view, one of the three possible choices presented itself to me, as the glass was slowly but with great certainty getting to the level where the wine and the glass would part company forever. Dilemma, what to do, why didn't I just steal away and make it NOT MY PROBLEM, but my country boy, Lutheran upbringing just couldn't leave my seatmate to his own situation. WAY to late in the game, I make a quiet attempt to wake him up. Of course you know what happened next, as he came awake, he realized that he had a wine glass in his hand, he realized that it was at a precarious angle, but he wasn't quite conscious enough to determine just what angle would be the correct angle, and most of his glass of red wine ended up in a one foot circle centered right over his crotch, red wine, off white pants. Of course at that moment our French friend decided that it was my fault that it all happened. OH WELL, I guess I learned that next time I'm going to be conveniently gone/absent when this situation comes up again. Especially when it's a Frenchman of proven anger! I should have tried to sleep that night, as our plane was thundering on to Paris, but with all the different excitement moments, and the though of being in Europe the next morning, now just a few hours away, there was no chance. This I was going to pay dearly for in the coming hours and days.
Six hours later we safely landed at the yet considered new Charles de Gaulle Airport. I was in Europe, I was in France, I was in Paris! Actually considering that I thought Boone's Farm was wine, and the livers of geese were to be disposed of in the harvesting process, Paris really had no big allure for me. If only the same trip presented itself to me now! The load us all into an oversize Mercedes bus at take us to our hotel. Le Grande Hotel across from the Opera House (now called the InterContinental Paris). The room I had, with a cross the street view of the Opera House is now over $1,000.00 a night and sadly the reviews of the place include rodents, dirty linen, and most disturbing, an uncaring staff. I always wanted to go back and relive those days, but not for that money!!! What? Our rooms aren't ready? What a surprise, OK Back on the bus, 5 hours touring Paris.
I know that I've been on a 5 hour tour of Paris. I've seen the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Quartier Pigalle, Champs-Elysees, and Montmartre, I know I have because I've seen pictures of me in front of these places, HOWEVER I have absolutely no recollection, no memory at all of being in front of these places. I could pass a lie detector test without flinching and say no to each question, yet there are those pesky photos. HMMM.
I'm sure we had lunch somewhere, but again no recollection. Finally we get back to our hotel, our wranglers tell us we have a 2 hour break. I need some sleep but first a bath. I fill it with water, I climb in, I lean back, and just keep going. Never before have I been in a bathtub where I can completely lie flat and toes and head don't touch the ends. Of course I'm completely underwater before I can catch myself. Wonderful, I'm underwater and gasping for air before I can recover. Out of the bath, dried off and between the sheets. AHHH welcome sleep. How many minutes had gone by, I don't know, but not that many when I hear a KNOCK KNOCK "Monsieur, monsieur, a gift from the manager!" So I'm bolted awake and out of bed, I'm at the door opening it (did I mention the not clothes on part?) and here comes a french room attendant (male thankfully) with a big basket with wine, champagne, fruit, cheese, sweets, the works. As I'm waking up I'm realizing that, HMMM i'm a guest in a foreign country, and now a gift from the hotel, perhaps this calls for a TIP. However clothes/wallet are on the other bed. So here we are, hotel room door open (out to a commons area not a hallway, me unclothed, opening my wallet to pass on a tip to this delivery boy, with an uncountable number of people walking by and looking in. Truly, it was a "welcome to France moment!" a couple of hours sleep, jump into some clothes, into some French cabs and we're whisked off to http://www.vagablond.com/121/ rue St. Louis-en-l’Ile and La Taverne du Sergeant Recruteur, Paris. What an experience! A food joint that was from the far past. A place originally used by military recruiters to attract young French men to have some food and adult beverages, perhaps some private time with some young French lasses, and in the morning the realization that they were now in the French Foreign Legion! Fortunately those days are long past, but the place really hadn't changed much. An incredible meal, many courses, lots to drink, but served so different than anything I had experienced in the US. The salad was a big basket, cut of what you want of the veggies you want! Hands unwashed, didn't seem to be a problem. More cheese? Just use your knife and take what you want. Sadly I got word in the spring of 2012 that the Taverne is now closed forever. Another victim of escalating prices and to many tourist choices, even in a city the size of Paris! But a memory that I'll hang on to forever! MORE ON THE PARIS TRIP, the TGV France's high speed train, and a rough flight back, coming up!